It is an agricultural tale involving a daring heist, a golden bounty and a few sticky-fingered overnight millionaires. On 30 July last year, an accountant hired by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers to take stock of its maple syrup reserves discovered a thin, clear and odourless liquid inside the barrels instead of the sweet-scented, viscous liquid maple syrup should be. It was water.
Sixty per cent of the Federation's stockpile, or six million gallons (22.7 million litres) of grade A maple syrup worth CAD18 million (SGD 22.5 million) had vanished. One of the largest agricultural heists in history, it would have required 100 tractor-trailers to transport and access to the Federation’s reserves warehouse located beside the Trans-Canadian Highway in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, leading authorities to believe it was an inside job.
Although grade A syrup is worth 13 times the price of crude oil, Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Brendan Borrell questioned if the motive behind the heist was merely monetary gain. He believed the perpetrators bore a grudge against the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.
Borrell went on to elaborate that the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers is what many people have considered to be a legal cartel that regulates and controls the world’s supply of maple syrup.
It sets prices of syrup, dictates who can and cannot produce syrup, sets quotas on the total amount of syrup to be produced and even stockpiles syrup produced in excess of the set quotas in order to maintain high prices.
Benoît Girouard, president of L’Union Paysanne, a farmers’ group opposed to the federation, has accused it of deliberately squeezing out small and medium-sized maple syrup producers by demanding farmers to declare their harvest and remit it for stockpiling and reselling.
This, according to Girouard, has led to inflated prices and a syrup black market. And it is precisely because of the existence of such a market that has enabled the thieves to off-load it at full price throughout the region, as well as making it extremely difficult for authorities to track and seize the stolen syrup because it, as police reports have stated, has no barcodes and nothing resembles a barrel of maple syrup like another barrel of maple syrup.
In the end, it appears it was more about ideals and sending a message than the $18 million payload that drove these maple syrup renegades to steal. These farmers have simply had enough of the federation. “There’s a total loss of control of your harvest,” Girouard said. “We’re not talking about regulating. It’s policing and it’s nonsense.”